A Book Review for People with Type-1 Diabetes by Nicole P. Manley
“Conventional wisdom about diabetes almost killed me,” writes Dr. Bernstein in Diabetes Solution. His book offers a life-saving alternative. It’s pages offer a proven solution for avoiding and even reversing the complication of type-1 diabetes. He makes a radical departure from “conventional wisdom” and shows you how to achieve a truly normal blood sugar of 4.7 mmol/L (83 mg/dl) throughout the day (give or take some small swings) without risking severe hypoglycaemia.
Avoiding blindness, kidney failure and amputation, however, comes with some small sacrifices. The life of a high-carbohyrate eater will have to go when you start this program. Any emotional eating or food cravings will have to be looked at in-depth. Bernstein recommends type-1 diabetics regulate their short and long-acting insulin to an exact science. Since adopting his system, I’ve been getting up at 2am to check my blood sugar.
Engineer Discovers How to Achieve Normal Blood Sugars
The Diabetes Solution starts with Dr. Richard Bernstein’s story. He’s been type-1 diabetes for over 65 years. The first two decades are a sad story of poor health, life-threatening hypoglycaemic reactions and a high-carb, low fat diet.
Originally an engineer, Dr. Bernstein used his scientific mindset to develop a system for managing his own diabetes. He was able to reverse all his complications (including failing kidneys). He is actually the one he came up with the idea of diabetic patients using glucometers to self-manage their blood sugar levels. But his methodology goes far beyond checking your blood sugars frequently.
His approach to managing diabetes was ridiculed and largely ignored. So he went to medical school in order to get the needed credentials. The original version of his book was published while he was still in medical school.
A Type-1 Diabetic Guide to Living a (Relatively) Normal Life
The 2011 edition of Diabetes Solution contains twenty-five chapters plus five appendices which cover everything he says you need to achieve blood sugar levels comparable to a non-diabetic on a high-carb diet. The main focus of the book is a low-carbohydrate diet and a well formulated insulin managemnet routine.
Chapter 3 focuses on assembling a “diabetic tool kit.” It lists all you need to manage your blood sugars, how much it costs and where to get it. Being type-1 diabetic requires good organizational skills — and this book makes it as easy as possible to get started developing such skills.
Chapters 4 to 6 covers the science behind checking your blood sugars. It goes into specific step-by-step instructions on how to do blood sugars under different circumstances and how to record the data. It also talks about the crazy things that affect your blood sugars, that you may not be aware of.
The Law of Small Numbers
Chapter 7: The Law of Small Numbers” is one of the most important sections in the book. It explains why it is easier to control blood sugars if you are working with small numbers. Specifically, he recommends eating small amount of carbohydrates so you don’t have to take large amounts of insulin. The less insulin required, the less chance of going low. And when you do go high (it’s unavoidable with type-1) the “high” won’t be so dramatic.
For example, before following Bersnstein’s program, I’ve had to take up to 10 units of Humalog insulin to correct high blood sugars. Now the most I need to cover a high is 1.2 units.
Chapter 8 outlines the treatment plan Bernstein uses in his clinic. This system may entice you to get a new doctor as I am in the process right now.
Low-Carb Approach to Saving a Type-1 Diabetics Life
Chapters 9-13 explain what is wrong about the conventional way type-1 diabetics have been taught to eat. These pages explain how to follow a diet of 30g of carbohydrates a day (without starving). It is very clear on which foods are okay for a type-1 diabetic to eat, and which are not. If you want to lose weight in the process, there’s a chapter that covers this. Plus, another chapter explains how to stop carbohydrates cravings and overeating. (Before reading Bernstein, I had no idea type-1 diabetics were missing another hormone that makes one feel satiated after eating).
Chapter 14 covers exercise, insulin sensitivity and aging. In particular, he offers many options for avoiding low blood sugars while exercising.
Getting Off The Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
Chapters16 to 19 covers the basics of insulin, how to inject and how different insulins works. He then goes into great detail on how to manage your long-acting and mealtime insulins. I’ve been testing these methods and they have proven to be very effective at keeping my blood sugar stable.
Before I read these chapters I could easily go from correcting a high blood sugar into a horrible episode of hypoglycaemia. Using Bernstein’s approach I can go from a high blood sugar, inject a correction and arrive at my target blood sugar of 5.0 without overshooting.
Preventing and correcting low blood sugars is the subject of Chapter 20. Before reading this book correcting a low blood sugar usually resulted in a high blood sugar. Now, I can quickly and safely bring myself up to my target blood sugar of 5.0 without overshooting. He even covers special advice for diabetics suffering gastroparesis.
Possibly the #1 Resource for Type-1 Diabetics on the Planet
Diabetes Solution covers just about everything a type-1 diabetic would need. Other chapters explain: how to cope with illness, hospitalization and dehydration; how to manage and cure gastroparesis; how to conduct follow-up visits to your doctor; and how to care for diabetic feet. There’s even appendices with unconventional advice regarding fat, protein and salt restrictions and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Every section of Diabetes Solution has a personal story, making it easy to read. I agree with or am willing to try out just about everything in the book. A few things I don’t agree with, however. Namely the use of artificial sweeteners, soy flour, bran and flax crackers. Also, I found it challenging having type-2 diabetes information mixed into the chapters. It’s unnecessary reading for a type-1 diabetic, like myself. I also had to remember not to mix type-2 advice up with type-1 advice.
No solution is perfect for every person; but as far as type-1 diabetes goes, I can think of no single resource more valuable than Dr. Richard Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution.